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Lincoln’s Rodriguez powers team to Jordan Brand Classic win

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Desi Rodriguez made sure his home turf was defended.

The Abraham Lincoln forward’s huge second-half helped the White Team pull out a 102–99 overtime win against the Black Team in the regional boys’ basketball all-star game of the Jordan Brand Classic last Saturday at the Barclays Center.

Rodriguez, who is headed to Seton Hall next year, scored all 17 of his points in the second half, including five of his team’s seven in the extra session.

“I felt like I got off a little slow,” Rodriguez said. “That not usually my game. I had a lot of fans out here looking out for me so I wanted to come out here and play hard and put more energy into my game.”

Rodriguez’s biggest play may have come on defense. Nazareth wing Samson Usilo tied the score at 95–95 thanks to a right-handed reverse layup in transition with 25 seconds to play in the fourth quarter. Rodriguez was matched up one-on-one with Nuemann-Gorreti’s Ja’Quan Newton (23 points), who was going to take the potential game-winning shot. He got his outstretched hand on Newton’s three-point attempt to help send the game to overtime.

“I had to get a stop,” Rodriguez said. “This is my city. He’s from Philly.”

Rodriguez got the extra session started with a beautiful hesitation move that resulted in a three-point play and his team never looked back. The White Team had to recover after blowing a 15-point second-half lead.

Bishop Loughlin guard and fellow Seton Hall commit Khadeen Carrington earned game’s most valuable player honors by scoring 18 points, grabbing seven rebounds and dishing out five assists. He also won that award at the Mayor’s Cup game on March 29. Usilo, who is headed to Manhattan, chipped in 17 points.

The regional game had an extra special meaning for Carrington. It was the last time Lions headman Ed Gonzalez would get to coach him. Both Gonzalez and assistant coach Bob Leckie were selected as coaches. Carrington played four years on the varsity team and is the school’s all-time leading scorer.

“Coaching my player for the very last time makes it bittersweet,” Gonzalez said.

All of the players got an added treat when basketball great and Brooklyn native Michael Jordan spoke to them in the hallway after the contest. He spoke about how much hard work goes into fulfilling your dreams in the sport. For Carrington, it was the perfect cap to a memorable experience.

“Winning the MVP, right in Brooklyn, a couple of blocks away from the school and then meeting Michael Jordan after, this is one of the best days of my life,” Carrington said.

Reach reporter Joseph Staszewski at jstaszewski@cnglocal.com. Follow him on twitter @cng_staszewski.
Updated 11:48 am, January 16, 2019
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